Jefferson County, Colorado, consists mostly of the western suburbs of the Denver metropolitan area. Once a Republican bastion, it has gone Democrat in the last four presidential elections. But liberal leanings aside, the people of Jefferson County aren't keen on seeing their tax money wasted on expensive gifts for county employees.
But that's precisely what Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Amanda Gonzalez did at an "employee recognition" party in January.
Jefferson County's Clerk and Recorder is defending a taxpayer-funded party for staff in Colorado even as county commissioners consider big budget cuts. The party last month included gifts like Apple AirPods, a robot vacuum and a telescope.
Clerk Amanda Gonzalez says the party was about employee appreciation and retention. She says her election workers have endured threats, workers in the records division have seen marriage applications double and most of those in the clerk's office, she says, make between $22-24 an hour. Since she can't give them raises, she says, she gave them appreciation in the form of a catered party and gifts.
Jefferson County resident -- and government watchdog -- Natalie Menten says it's an example of government waste. She heard rumors about the party and filed an open records request to see if there was any truth to them.
"I was really shocked. I thought it be like one or two things," Menten said.
Hint: It's never just one or two things.
Menton makes some very good points:
A hardcore fiscal conservative, Menten says every Jefferson County taxpayer should be outraged.
"They've seen their grocery bills go up. They've tightened their belt. They want government to do these same things -- watch their budget, tighten their belt and quit crying wolf about 'We don't have enough money,'" she said.
Menten says taxpayers should demand more oversight and transparency, including the posting of detailed check registers -- not just budgets -- online along with all credit card purchases and competitive bid contracts. Citizens, she says, shouldn't have to file open records requests and pay hundreds of dollars to see how their tax dollars are being spent.
Menton is correct, and there's no reason, at the county level, that these records should not be available on demand. It's up to us, as taxpayers, to keep an eye on these people. It's not just the federal government that runs up outrageous expenditures - although the federal government is the only one that can create massive drops of inflation-stoking fiat currency. State and county governments should come under scrutiny as well, along with the politics-adjacent folks who run the party apparatuses.
It is in the nature of government to grow ever larger and more intrusive. It is also in the nature of government to waste the taxpayer's money. There is an apocryphal story about President Reagan objecting to someone describing Congress as "spending like drunken sailors." The Gipper corrected the speaker in his usual style by pointing out that "...drunken sailors are spending their own money." This Jefferson County story serves well to point out the need for never-ending vigilance on the part of the taxpayer because they're not spending their own money -- they are spending our money, and they are far too quick to waste it.